Unions Are Critical

I love this union cause.

— William H. Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union

I had to hurry with the Dallas Labor Newsletter today because I didn’t want to miss picketing with Communications Workers Local 6150 over at the AT&T building.

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There was a national walkout concerning around 20 unions today, according to CWA 6150 President Scott Wilson. Here in Dallas, workers expected to stay out only four hours. Wilson was careful to let me know that this was an Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) strike, not an economic strike.

Legally speaking, and unions have to be scrupulously legal under the watchdog eyes of a hostile government, there’s a lot of difference between a ULP and an ordinary strike. One of the main differences is that companies can’t just replace everybody that goes on strike if it’s ULP.

Today’s strike will be examined by the National Labor Relations Board. I imagine that the company will claim that they committed no unfair labor practices, and of course the union already said that they did. According to Scott Wilson, the company started contacting each union member individually to try to convince them to take whatever the company wanted them to take. That’s illegal.

Unions elect their bargaining committees. It’s supervised by the government and done very carefully. Then company representatives and union representatives sit down together and work something out — or that’s the way it’s supposed to work. If the company went around the process and started approaching individual members, that’s illegal. AT&T surely knows that.

The trouble is, they also know that the Labor Board isn’t likely to penalize them much, if at all. Companies are getting more and more aggressive against their workers because the government is so completely and savagely against us this days. The Supreme Court just ruled that employers can take away our right to sue them when they misbehave. The President just passed three anti-union executive orders. Another Supreme Court case, “Janus Versus AFSCME,” may impose anti-union “right to work/scab” rules on all federal employees. We’re holding our breath on that one.

If you think about it for a minute, you realize that an attack on the right to organize is an attack on democracy. Organizing is just about the only way that ordinary people can defend their democratic rights. Take that away and you have fascism.

Hitler knew that. That’s why one of his earliest moves was to outlaw all unions and seize their assets.

There’s a solution

The solution for saving the right to organize lies in solidarity with one another. In the last couple of decades, unions have gotten better and better about helping other progressive organizations and individuals. Take for example the environmentalists who picketed Exxon/Mobil last week. Three of us local union members spoke at it, and then, best of all, we heard from one of Exxon’s victims in — believe it or not — Australia! I recorded the Australian oil worker’s comments on Facebook, and it’s had 1,400 views so far.

But other progressive organizations do not ordinarily rally to help unions. At the CWA 6201 picket today, only union members were there. In fact, I was the only one who wasn’t a member of that local. Part of the problem is that unions haven’t learned to ask for help, but part of it is sectarianism and anti-worker sentiment on the part of some other activists.

When we get together, we will win.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio FM 89.3 in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM central time. Podcasts are available on the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

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